Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on October 1, 2019
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson is a master of the game. Predominately known for writing middle-grade and young adult fiction, Red at the Bone is her second foray into adult fiction.

Red at the Bone deals with teenage pregnancy and the impact on a family generationally. The book kicks off with Melody's sweet sixteen party. An orchestra warms-up playing "Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac" before Prince's "Darling Nikki" ushers in the birthday girl. Oddly, Melody dons a white dress commissioned sixteen years prior for mother, but she did not wear it. Why?

Red at the Bones is not a linear narrative. Woodson drops the reader into a family that has seen its fair share of hardship. In real-life can a story be told from the beginning? Generational baggage and trauma haunts every family and gets passed down as heirlooms. This trauma impacts everyone before they even enter the world. To emphasize this point, the reader enters the heads of family members, and through their point of view, a multi-faceted story unfurls. Secrets hidden in dark crevices reveal themselves slowly and "villains" are humanized.

Woodson purposely subverts stereotypes about motherhood, fatherhood, and Black generational wealth. She does not shy away from writing a seemingly unsympathetic woman! In life, there are many questions and no easy answers. Woodson allows her characters to be human without judgment, and does this with prose bordering on the poetic. Her writing is like listening to jazz with its leaps, bounds, and improvisations. Oh, and you get a minor history lesson on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
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